expedition leader Outdoor Blog > Adventure

Basic qualifications to start outdoor instructing

walking groups

Once you are confident of the direction you wish to take your outdoor instructing career, there are hundreds of options available to you, a lot of which are very specialised, and designed to make you an expert instructor in particular fields, for example, climbing or paddlesports. But if you are new to outdoor adventure instructing you may not really be clear on what it is you want to teach. You may wish to try your hand at a few different activities, or just get the basics of leadership without having to specialise. There are some great options – we are going to tell you about some of the most popular.

While you can gain any number of academic courses such as Higher National Diplomas in Outdoor Leadership and Sports Coaching, or training qualifications such as the ERCA rope course, and those offered by the British Canoe Union or Royal Yachting Association, this article is more concerned with the types of qualifications that get you started in outdoor adventure, that give you the basics and allow you to specialise at a later date. If you are a parent, or a young student just getting started, and have any specific questions about what to do next, message us on social media and we will do our best to give you some good advice.

First Aid Course | Safety First

The first thing we would advise you to do is get yourself on a first aid course. Some qualifications may include it as part of their course, others will require you to have one behind you before they will allow you on to their student roll. Safety is one of the fundamental elements of any form or outdoor instructing and knowing first aid is a must for anyone who wants to develop their career in this industry.

Even though a few qualifications, including the Basic Expedition Leadership Award that we will talk about next will be satisfied with a one day course, it is worth enrolling on a full 2 day, sixteen hour course. There are plenty of companies offering the first aid qualification.

Basic Expedition Leadership | Getting started as an outdoor leader

In an industry with its fair share of acronyms, one you may hear quite frequently for entry level instructors is BEL (or sometimes BELA and BEAL), which stands for Basic Expedition Leadership or Basic Expedition Leadership Award or even Assisting in Basic Expedition Leadership. While considered a basic qualification, it is still nationally recognised and shows that the holder of the qualification has a good understanding of leading and taking responsibility for groups of people in lowland outdoor areas. This qualification is split into Level 2, which can be gained from the age of sixteen, and Level 3, which is for people aged 17 and 18.

Who offers the qualification

The qualification is governed by Sports Leaders UK, who are a charity offering a range of outdoor education qualifications that meet the QCF (Qualifications and Credit Framework). The QCF is a system designed to assign credit or merit to qualifications that fall outside of the 'traditional' educational system. The course is also offered by a wide range of approved assessment centres, or independent companies throughout the UK.

What is involved

Level 2 includes a total of fifty seven hours of instruction, covering the development of leadership, and campcraft skills, as well as expedition planning and environmental awareness. Level 3, meanwhile, includes one hundred and twenty seven hours of guided learning. You are not require to hold Level 2 before you can achieve Level 3. The Level 3 qualification is simply a newer and more comprehensive version of the award, though both are still valid and offered.

Who is it useful for

Young people who are interested in getting involved in the Duke of Edinburgh scheme or as a stepping stone to general outdoor education instructing. Mountain Leader Training UK also recognise the Level 3 BEL qualification as part of their qualification scheme. The qualification is equally useful for teachers, especially of physical education, or youth workers, who may be tasked with taking groups of school children on project work in lowland areas.

NVQ Level 2 Outdoor Activity Leadership | Modern Apprenticeships

A Level 2 NVQ is equivalent to a grade A-C at GCSE. There aren’t any specific GCSEs aimed at outdoor leaders, but this NVQ is quite popular and is even offered by the likes of Kingswood, a national outdoor education centre.

Who offers the course

Almost anyone can offer this course, as long as the follow the national guidelines. An NVQ, or National Vocational Qualification, is a work based qualification achieved through training and assessment. In other words, you are likely to achieve this course as part of paid or volunteer employment.

What is involved

As an assistant instructor, you will be trained to be able to plan and safely deliver activity sessions with limited supervision from more senior staff. To achieve the qualification you basically have to tick a series of boxes that act as credits, and show that you are capable. Show your assessor that you can prepare an activity session and you will get 4 credits. Give a good impression of yourself to the people you are helping to instruct and you can get another 5 credits. Get a total of 30 and you pass the course!

Who is it useful for

Anyone aged 16 or over, who is looking to start a career in teaching outdoor activities to groups or to become an activity leader or outdoor instructor. The real advantage of this NVQ is that it gives you hands on experience that demonstrates not only that you understand how to do the work, but that you have already done so. It also forms a stepping stone for people wishing to move up to further and higher education courses such as Diplomas.



Multi Activity Instructors UK

Multi Activity Instructors UK
More Details & Application


Multi Activity Instructors France

Multi Activity Instructors France
More Details & Application


Outdoor Activity Instructor

Outdoor Activity Instructor
More Details & Application


Paddlesports Instructor

Paddlesports Instructor
More Details & Application



Sailing Instructor

Sailing Instructor
More Details & Application


Watersports Instructor Training UK

Watersports Instructor Training UK
More Details & Application


Children’s Activity Group Leaders

Children’s Activity Group Leaders
More Details & Application


Camp Leader / Senior Instructor

Camp Leader / Senior Instructor
More Details & Application